US concerned about new Polish media law

Leszek Szymański/PAP

The US has expressed concern about the new Polish media law under which only entities headquartered in European Economic Area (EEA) countries can be granted a broadcasting licence, provided they are not dependent on entities from outside the EEA.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed "deep concern" about the passage of legislation in Poland's lower house, the Sejm, targeting a U.S.-owned independent news station. He also urged the Polish president not to sign the new legislation passed earlier on Wednesday into law.

"And so that is why we have urged Poland to – the Government of Poland to demonstrate its commitments to these principles, which are indeed shared, not only in words but in deed," US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday.

"When it comes to the media law, we know that a free and independent media – they make our democracies stronger," he stated. "It makes the transatlantic alliance more resilient, including to those who would seek to divide the alliance and divide us, and it is a fundamental component of our bilateral relationship with Poland."

Price stated that Poland was an important NATO Ally "that understands, importantly, that the transatlantic alliance is based not only on mutual interests when it comes to our shared security, but also mutual commitments to shared democratic values and prosperity."

The law, a controversial amendment to Poland's Broadcasting Act tabled by MPs from ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), specifies that only entities headquartered in European Economic Area countries can be granted a broadcasting licence, provided they are not dependent on entities from outside the EEA.

If introduced, the new regulation would affect the US-seated Discovery Inc. company, owner of Poland’s largest independent television network, TVN, known for its government-critical stance. In effect, the broadcaster's news channel, TVN24, could be denied a licence extension after its current licence expires on September 26, and Discovery could be forced to sell the station.

Late on Wednesday, the TVN management board stated that it would 'firmly and consistently' defend both the TVN24 news channel as well as other channels owned by the TVN Discovery Group.

"The decision made by the Sejm regarding the Broadcasting Act amendment is directed against TVN," the board said in a statement.

"The result of today's vote undermines the property right, thus causing anxiety among foreign investors in Poland," it concluded.